My own private homophobia
“Personal writing” isn’t at all my usual thing, but for some reason I feel compelled to write about this. Maybe the holidays are softening me up; I don’t know. And I don’t know where I’d post this but on the Blend, the web community where I feel most at home. But there is more to this than mere nostalgia; I hope you’ll hang on through the first few paragraphs. Anyway, here goes:
When I was five years old I had a boyfriend. Yes, that’s right, five. He was the kid across the street, and his name was Davy. He was just about exactly my age, and he had flame red hair and the bluest eyes you can imagine. (The red hair got imprinted on me. To this day I’m a sucker for a guy who’s a redhead.)
We were “best friends,” the way kids that age often are. Inseparable. Constantly together. On alternate nights, we’d sleep over at each other’s houses, in each other’s beds. In each other’s arms. I’m sure it was terribly naive of me, but Davy seemed the only one I’d ever want to share my life with. To the extent two kids that age can be in love, we were.
And there was sex, and I don’t mean just “playing doctor” the way little kids do. There was never any anal penetration; I don’t think it ever occurred to us. But we did everything else, kissing, oral, oral-anal, even stuff like foot worship, you name it. I remember us playing little games where we’d tie each other up and pretend to whip each other. We even did water sports. And more. The sense of joy we got exploring one another’s bodies was more wonderful than I can say. We were very advanced little boys.
It couldn’t have been more idyllic, or more ideal. Two innocents in paradise. But it ended when I was eight and my family moved to another neighborhood. That was that. No more boyfriend love for this kid. It took me ages to get over the loss.
Fast forward to high school. I spent my freshman year in a Catholic seminary. (It turned me into an atheist.) When I was, er, disinvited to return because I asked too many embarrassing questions about church history and doctrine, my parents put me into a Catholic high school. I was sure being a failed priest would carry a mark of shame there, so I was dreading it. But to my surprise, nobody seemed to give a damn. And there was an even better surprise waiting for me there.
Davy was there. His hair had darkened a bit, but I knew him the moment I saw him.
It took me awhile to get over the shock of seeing him again (I can be pretty slow on the uptake). Then the truth sank in, a truth I was hardly prepared to deal with.
Davy had turned out queeny. He was the school faggot, the one who got beaten up and spit on just for walking down the hall. The ultimate outsider. And since this was a good, loving, Catholic school, the abuse was vicious, frequent and unrelenting.
I was horrified. It had only just begun to dawn on me what being gay meant. I was a very naïve kid, and I had internalized the church’s “teachings,” not intellectually (I was bright enough to realize they were bullshit) but emotionally. I wanted to be with Davy again. I wanted it more than anything in the world. But I was terrified.
Much too terrified to bond with him again, to let anyone suspect I was “one of them.” I forced myself to be polite but aloof to him. And it killed me. Almost literally. That awful mixture of desire for him and fear of being like him paralyzed me in more ways than I could begin to list here (and probably more than I’m aware of even today).
I even remember him approaching me once and asking me, almost in tears, if we could be friends again. I was too terrified to do anything but stare at him and then walk away.
Since high school I have never seen him again. I’d give anything to be able to find him again—and apologize for what I did to him and for what I had let myself become. He’s not listed in the phone book, and web searches turn up nothing.
I’ve moved on and grown in the thousand years since high school, of course. But I’ve always carried that sadness inside me. It is, I think, a large part of what motivated my gay activism and even a lot of my professional writing. I’m not enough of a romantic fool to imagine that the two of us might have been together and happy to this very day. But it was a possibility, I guess.
A part of me—and only a part—hates straight society for what it does to us. It wasn’t Davy’s queeniness that kept me away from him(I find that softness in a man’s character very appealing); it was blind terror of what would happen to me, and to us. Every time I saw him punched in the school hallway, I died a little. But I was too crippled by fear to do a thing about it.
When I see “men of God” attacking us on TV; when I hear clowns like Rick Warren quoting ancient texts to prove there was something wrong with the uncomplicated love these two boys felt for each other; when I hear of families being torn apart by bigoted churches and their ballot initiatives; the blend of sorrow and rage I feel an hardly be expressed.
We must keep fighting, all of us, not only for ourselves and our relationships but for all the gay kids yet to come.